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Franchises > Hardee's

How Hardee's Shed Its Bikini-Centric Ad Strategy, and Cleverly Grew Up

The franchise is repositioning itself as forward-thinking.
How Hardee's Shed Its Bikini-Centric Ad Strategy, and Cleverly Grew Up
Image credit: Courtesy of Hardeeā€™s

This story appears in the January 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If the name Hardee’s makes you think about how the Thickburger is made with all-natural, high-quality beef -- and not Kate Upton cramming a burger in her gorgeous face -- then everything is going according to plan. 

Related: 5 Tips for Building a Strong Brand Identity

After moving on from its longtime bikini-centric ad strategy in 2016, Hardee’s is aggressively honing its brand identity as more forward-­thinking, turning its focus from babes to burgers -- with a wink. Recent campaigns include pointed digs at competitors’ menus (an ad spoofing a “Taco Randomizer”) as well as at itself. One spot features a fictitious spokesperson, Carl Hardee, Sr., who announces the brand’s intention to cut the smut, blaming the ads on his wayward son, Carl, Jr. Adweek applauded, saying it “brilliantly flips the script.” In October 2017, the company, whose current creative agency of record is 72andSunny, confirmed it was putting its digital and creative work up for review. 

Related: The 8 Laws of Branding

The year was also marked by a major C-suite reshuffle, with Whole Foods’ Jeff Jenkins stepping in as CMO and Jason Marker replacing Andy Puzder as CEO. (Puzder was President Trump’s first pick for Labor Secretary but withdrew his nomination.) “We are in the process of making significant organizational changes, focusing on talent, innovation and operational excellence in the restaurants,” says Marker, who brings his experience serving as the former president of KFC. “Speed and everyday value will be critical elements of our continued growth.”

Related: 5 Affordable Franchises You Can Start for Less Than $10,000

The company hopes to entice new franchisees to open restaurants in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and New England. Between July 2016 and July 2017, the company opened 66 new franchise restaurants in the U.S. A new incentive savings program, including a reduction in the initial franchisee fee and advertising and promotion obligation, is offered to those considering opening new restaurants by early 2019. 

For more on franchises, check out 2018's Franchise 500 list.